Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Northwestern is shorthanded and struggling. And Wisconsin is really good, and even worse, almost perfectly designed to murder the living hell out of Northwestern.
Northwestern plays Wisconsin in basketball!
Let's put it this way: Wisconsin is better than Northwestern in basketball, especially considering the Wildcats will have eight guys. At this point in the year, that would satisfy a lot of you for a summary.
But that's not what I do, so let's go: although Wisconsin has really murdered Northwestern in recent years - let's talk about why!
First, on offense. Wisconsin runs Bo Ryan's patented swing offense that distributes the ball pretty evenly throughout the team to get everybody shots, and it works very well - they have the No. 34 offense in the country. Jared Berggren is the type of center that kills Northwestern - not the uber-physical Trevor Mbakwe one, the I-can-hit-shots-and-I'm-stronger-than-you. Alex Olah isn't fast enough to keep up with him - I know that will sound crazy to Wisconsin fans - so he'll bury some 17 footers.
That said, I really, really think Northwestern should return to the 2-3 zone with switching on top that was effective against Ohio State. I don't recall watching them play against a 2-3 this year, but I imagine they'd switch out of the swing to run a simple zone offense with Ryan Evans likely in the middle. I'm fine with that. I don't understand how this team is so good with someone so poor on offense as Evans, but they are. It might open up threes for Ben Brust and Sam Dekker, but I suspect they'll get those anyway, and it'll cut down on Berggren's ability to be effective scoring away from the rim. DO NOT 1-3-1 them. They don't turn the ball over, and Bo Ryan has proven to me that he makes sure his guys know what to do against it.
On defense, Wisconsin is one of the best in the country with an 83.6 defensive efficiency. And, oh, my, goodness, they're build to murder Northwestern. NU is consistently one of the teams whose offense is built around taking a lot of threes: this year, they're No. 11 in the country, with 43.0 percent of their shots from downtown. Wisconsin guards the living balls out of the perimeter, and only 24.5 percent of their opponent's shots come off threes - the fifth lowest in the country. And NU is great at getting buckets off assists thanks to the Princeton Offense that specializes in getting dudes open for a millisecond and executing: this year, they're No. 1, with 70.3 percent of their buckets coming off of assists. Only 39.3 percent of opposing buckets come off of assists for Wisconsin, No. 2 in the country. Translation: they're gonna force you to beat them one-on-one, inside the three-point arc. HEEEEEEEEEELP HELP HLEP HELP.
And yes, we're gonna burn. This is the No. 322 paced-team in the country vs. the No. 323 paced-team in the country. DAMN that's gonna be a slow game, but bad for Northwestern is that this means they'll be perfectly in rhythm